Showcasing varying styles of documentary, these short films explore issues relevant to young people today.
Hold my hand / Prend ma main (subtitled)
Dir. by Alexandre Lefebvre
This portrait of three young people in Quebec proves that a life without sight is as rich and fulfilling as any other kind.-young people with ‘disabilities’. In the film we meet, 11 year-old Chloe, 17 year-old Alex, and 21 year-old Salma. All three have varying degrees of visual loss.
Alex shares how he wanted to be a machine operator but found out that he was losing his sight in grade 6. He explains how he had no real time to deal with these bad news. All at once he got the bad news, and felt like his future dream was shattered. But he is still hopeful, he is part of the swimming team in his high school and has good friends. He does not plan to give up. Chloe shares how she is sad that sometimes other kids don’t want to play with her because of her blindness. She is resilient, and likes to test her limits even if at times, she may want to give up. Salma likes to writes poetry about her blindness, and about accepting herself as she is. She is no longer trying to be ‘normal’, and has embraced her ‘disability’ as something that can empower her.
These young people all have dreams to be more than defined by their ‘disability’. They are strong and resilient. In a way, I think they challenge us (the rest of the world) to be more accepting and more aware. What the film clearly points out is how much the world has not adapted to people with special needs. Here is where we can do better, I think.
Dir. by Bibi Fadlalla
A DJ since the age of nine, Lavanya Raghoenandan, also known as Kendis, is on her way to becoming a superstar in the dance-music world. Kendis released her first album at 13 years-old. What many of her fans do not know, however, is that Lavanya was in a vehicular accident at 11 years old. As a result, she cannot extend her arm fully and copes with pain on a regular basis. The accident also caused her to fear going outside for a while, but it was music that helped her get through this troublesome time.
Although she still has to cope with these challenges, Kendis the DJ, continues to pursue her ambitions. It is great to see a young woman own the stage, and be so sure of herself. Lavanya talks candidly about her struggles, but she also shares how she feels stronger now. She is close to her family and friends, who love and support her in her musical career.
I think what comes through the film is Lavanya’s own strength, and how she draws part of this strength from the love and support of her family. Her father (who also works in the music industry) says, “force your luck by working really hard.” These are words Lavanya / Kendis lives by. She is confident, and commands attention — she has the makings of a star.
Dir. by Christina Willings
It’s never easy to find a place in the world and to be who you need to be. Five gender-creative young people face these daunting tasks with courage and imagination.
The film captures the story of Tru, Milo, Bex, Lili, and Fox. They are varying in ages, but all are defining their gender identities in their own way. They each share their personal journey; inspiring in their own right. They also share their struggles — praying to be reborn in a different body, for instance. They also talk about how children are usually okay playing with each other irrespective of gender. However, the problem is always with the parents. In telling their stories, their level of maturity comes through very clearly.
These young people are really challenging others’ perceptions of whether they should act more female or male. The fact is their own gender identity has always been clear to each of them. Tru explains it well by saying “there are others like me… I don’t have to pretend to be someone else.” Having supportive parents has been key for these young people. With parental support, these five young people are resilient, open minded, and beautiful. They personify the saying, ”it’s fine to be who you are.”
I Am Black and Beautiful
Dir. by Hawanatu Bangura
Through the words of seven Afro-Australian women, the film asks, what does being Black woman in Australia mean? They all share their experiences and express their ideas about living in the skin they’re in. They discuss issues of colourism. The idea of skin bleaching is so prominent in some African nations, it is difficult to ignore it. Some people are rewarded with gifts for being lighter; yet being lighter isn’t always better.
There are challenges around fitting in while embracing the beauty of being a Black woman. As one of them puts it, ”how could I like myself if others thought I was ugly?” These women try to find ways to embrace their African culture especially with their families, while living in Australia, where Western culture is predominant. Their life is a combination of two worlds.
To complement their stories, the director combines dance/movement sequences throughout the film. The words and movements play off each other. The movement is another way to enhance the beauty and essence of Black women. A poignant and powerful film.
The films from the IRL (In Real Life) program are challenging while also being open minded. The production value is high, and most importantly, their stories are honest, relevant, and timely. This program screens March 11, 17, and 21 as part of TIFF Kids International Film Festival.